According to an article in the Des Moines Register the Iowa State Association of Counties has proposed legislation insulating “counties and cities from liability for injuries or damages resulting from bike accidents on their roads unless it is shown that government officials were notified of a road deficiency before an accident and that road crews neglected to take action.” The proposed legislation was a result of a $350,000 settlement paid by Crawford County to the widow of Kirk Ullrich who died in a 2004 RAGBRAI accident.
The need for the legislation is questionable. The current law governing county tort liability contains a laundry list of exemptions from liability for counties. Since the case was settled prior to any judicial determination we don’t know whether any of these exemptions would have applied. I would even suggest that the standard for county liability suggested in the proposed legislation is similar to the standard that a court may have imposed. What is obvious, however, is that the county thought it had enough exposure to cause it to settle the case.
Crawford County has since banned all RAGBRAI and similar events from occurring on its county roads. Perhaps the legislation was proposed to prevent additional counties from banning RAGBRAI from its roads. An influx of “RAGBRAI bans” could possibly prevent the event from occurring in the future which would be a detriment to the state.